The article contains some interesting thoughts on the value and purpose of awards, including this bit of wisdom from M. John Harrison: “As an assessment of fiction, they offer an alternative to market forces… They’re often an index of what we feel fiction could be, rather than what it is... Well thought-out, well-given awards are about change.”
The shortlisted novels for the 2007 Arthur C. Clarke Award are:
End of the World Blues: Jon Courtenay Grimwood – Gollancz
Nova Swing: M. John Harrison – Gollancz
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart: Lydia Millet – William Heinemann
Hav: Jan Morris – Faber & Faber
Gradisil: Adam Roberts – Gollancz
Streaking: Brian Stableford – P.S. Publishing
Winners will be announced May 2nd at Sci-Fi London, the 6th annual international festival of science fiction and fantastic film.
Meanwhile, we'll be experimenting with content, including some exclusive thoughts from our featured authors, discount specials on backlist titles for newsletter subscribers only, etc... And I'd love feedback here on what you think or anything you'd like to see!
"Gradisil is a solidly written hard SF tale that has enough nice touches to elevate it above many similar offerings. ...interesting takes on world development. As well as some good SFnal set pieces... Given that a lot of the 'high frontier' novels since the 1970s had the action taking place in the asteroid belt with its raw materials, Adam Roberts has pursued what some might consider as a surprising route of centring the action in close Earth orbit. Well not entirely surprising given that since the 1970s much of the action in space (space probes aside) has taken place either in geostationary or lower. Yet Roberts is one of the few to have had the nous to capitalise on this. Taking all this, and that it is a sound read, and Gradisil is certainly one for hard SF and space opera fans."
Turning to Justina Robson's Keeping It Real, he says:
"...delightfully over-the-top action romp.... Keeping it Real is a gung-ho, ripping, science-fantasy adventure. Fast-paced and sassy, it bolts along at a cracking pace with the heroine stopping for nothing, save the occasional magically enhanced blow to her derring-do. ...a fun genre action novel that, unlike many from that stable, is coherently told with colour. More than this it is not afraid of using genre tropes in a confidently casual but authoritative way to carry the reader along the novel's high-dive ride of a plot. The protagonist also approppriately high-powered being, if you will, a modern day Tara King type terminator hybridising with Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
First, there are two entire short stories online:
Paul Di Filippo's Fast Forward 1 contribution, "Wikiworld"
Sean Williams' The Resurrected Man inspiration, "A View Before Dying" (old format)
Then these twelve excerpts all recently uploaded, all in our Funky New Format:
Jack Dann's The Man Who Melted. Also, a new interview.
Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky
Ian McDonald's Brasyl
Mike Resnick's Starship: Mutiny and Starship: Pirate
Adam Robert's Gradisil
Justina Robson's Keeping It Real (along with music and other extras)
Joel Shepherd's Crossover and Breakaway
Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter, The Blood Debt, and The Hanging Mountains
We'll be adding more as we go, and converting some of the old ones across to the new look, but meanwhile, these excerpts are still available in the Old Format:
Michael Blumlein's The Healer
Gardner Dozoi's Galileo's Children introduction
Charles Coleman Finlay's The Prodigal Troll
Scott MacKay's Tides
Ian McDonald's River of Gods
John Meaney's Paradox, Context, Resolution
Michael Moorcock & Storm Constantine's Silverheart
Chris Roberson's Here, There & Everywhere
Justina Robson's Silver Screen
Robert Silverberg's Star of Gypsies
Martin Sketchley's The Destiny Mask
Elsewhere on the web, you can find:
Chris Roberson's Paragaea, and an entire prequel novel, Set the Seas on Fire
David Louis Edelman's Infoquake (Chapters 1 - 7), also four Audio chapters.
Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky at InfinityPlus
My own introduction to Fast Forward 1, "Welcome to the Future"
And that should be enough to keep anyone busy!
"Reviewers have been calling the world-building in this book things like 'unique,' and 'groundbreaking.' I'm glad it's making an impact, but the story's heart is really Titus Quinn and his odyssey to reclaim his family. Family is a complicated thing for Quinn. His is shaped not only by love and loyalty but betrayal and transience. So the internal through line is whether he finds love and whether, amid the large scale forces, it still matters. The external one is which world will dominate and at what cost."
Infinity Plus has also put up a text extract from the novel, online here.
Meanwhile, Pat's Fantasy Hotlist celebrates their 100th review with a stellar report on Joel Shepherd's Breakaway: A Cassandra Kresnov Novel. As Patrick says:
"As was the case with its predecessor, Breakaway is a character-driven book. Shepherd deserves kudos for the manner with which he continues to portray her [Cassandra's] moral awakening. The supporting cast is also a lot stronger in this sequel, promising a lot of things to come in the last volume of the trilogy. At times a political thriller and at times an action-packed scifi yarn, Breakaway makes for a very satisfying read.... The Pyr logo continues to be associated with quality reads."
"Full of political intrigue, personal revelations and rapid-fire action, this is sci-fi at its best. The plot is complex, yet it is the personal issues that rise to the forefront and force readers to examine what makes one truly human."
This is a good time to mention, too, that we've put up some sample pages of Breakaway online here. Check 'em out!
"Love flourishes amid technical puzzles and planetary mysteries in Latner's strong debut, which offers a healthy dose of the sciences-astronomy, physics, geology, biology-along with an intriguing cast of characters... Well-known for her hard SF short fiction, Latner should win new readers with this fine first novel."
Meanwhile, back here on Earth Prime, both of these ass-kicking augmented women continue to amass the love.
Tomas L Martin, of SFCrowsnest, returns to Cassandra Kresnov's world with his review of Joel Shepherd's Breakaway, in which he says:
"It is this extremely nuanced political spectrum that truly brings 'Breakaway' to life. That and the explosions. The superb set pieces featuring SWAT teams against extremists are matched in excitement by the battles on the floors of government. The debates between Callay's representatives are as exciting as the running gun battles in its streets... The brilliance of 'Breakaway' in making these politicians seem just as real as those in the real world adds a huge depth of interest to this book... an extremely well rounded novel. Recommended."
And on Blog, Jvstin Style, we read of Justina Robson's work: "I really enjoyed Keeping It Real. The book is unabashedly the first in a series, the book ends with lots of dangling questions to be answered. Hyping and turbocharging Earth into the 21st century, with high tech to counter and contrast against the sorceries of the other realms provides new life for the 'Elves meet modern humans' genre. Here, we do get an Elf riding a motorcycle, but we have a special agent with a nuclear reactor to help give her an edge, as well as a lot of other toys. There is a decent leavening of sex and eroticism, but not to the point where it overwhelms the narrative as it seems to do in a certain writer's oeuvre...there is a lot of potential here, to explore these new worlds and the interactions between these interesting characters. Not just Zal and Lila, but other characters in the band, and others we meet throughout the course of the novel, from elf necromancers to a demoness singer to a dragon that reminded me of the elemental entities of Exalted. Robson knows that the characters that inhabit her worlds have to hold up as well as the world itself, and she does this ably."
Thanks for joining me for this second edition of Still Writing! The other day someone asked me how long I'd been seriously writing before I got published. Answer: eight years. I mention this not to worry you, but to encourage you to keep going, no matter what. My seventh novel, Bright of the Sky, has just arrived at bookstores. Getting published is like a marathon. Sometimes you win because you kept going when others quit.
You have an idea for a story, let's say. But you don't know where the story starts in earnest. Perhaps you feel some solid background is in order to build context. Or you want to establish empathy with your character right away, so you'll show your protagonist in the first crisis of your story. Good instincts, but both approaches are wrong.
This is not just a question of where to begin the story, but it is the critical issue of what your story is about. What portion of your character's life is the heart of your tale? What time in your character's life is most memorable, and will most shape her character? Looked at in this context, it's a little easier to discover when to start your narrative. A long chunk of background information makes for hard slogging before the reader is engaged or truly curious. An emotional scene at the beginning of your story asks us to care before we know the protagonist.
One approach that I like is to begin with what might be called "a shot across the bow" of your character's life. The day when the life she used to lead is no longer possible. The status quo is upset. Her desires are hooked (or soon will be) by an event that challenges What Is. The event may be a negative one, implying the struggles to come. Readers will look forward to the conflict, and rest easier as you begin to weave in the background. On the other hand, the incident might be a challenging positive one as well--as in Bright of the Sky, when a science station finds evidence of a universe next door. This event is sometimes called the inciting incident. It implies or shows the dilemma that the protagonist will engage. We read on to find out what she will do and how she will be affected. You might have a subsequent scene in which your character accepts the challenge presented. Then your climactic scene dramatizes the resolution of the dilemma suggested in that first "shot across the bow," irretrievably reordering the world of your character. Is this a formula? No. In practice, these scenes have infinite variety. You're just using one of the universal principals of fiction.
My best piece of advice in writing is "don't go it alone." The stereotype is that writers struggle in a lonely garret, poor and misunderstood. OK, writing is a solitary endeavor. But it doesn't have to be a lonely one. Once you meet other writers you'll find a group of amazing, intelligent, compassionate and intense people who will form an irreplaceable circle of friends. One place to start building your circle is at a writers' conference. Google one near you. In Western Washington, that might be PNWA. It's how I got my start--not only with the nuts and bolts of writing, but with becoming part of a writing community. In Eastern Washington, the Write on the River conference is headed into its second year. If you're in the vicinity, join us for a day of workshops given by award-winning authors on fiction, nonfiction and the writing life. Saturday, May 12 in Wenatchee.
I'm the president of the conference, and one of its founding members. How do I find the time? Believe me, I thought long and hard before getting involved. I do it not only to give back, but to stay connected myself. For me, it's a window out of the garret.
Five years in the making, my novel Bright of the Sky is now available, launching a four-book series. I am with a new publisher, Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books, and they've given me the most beautiful book I've ever had. Their attention to design, artwork and production details has been amazing. Heartfelt thanks to my fantastic editor, Lou Anders. His blog is worth checking out, too.
Hope I am allowed a small brag. Right out of the gate, Bright received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, where it was deemed "riveting." The book has received tremendous endorsements from Booklist, Library Journal, SciFi Weekly and others. It's a science fiction story with a fantasy feel--an epic sort of story with fun world-building and a hero to cheer. I'll be traveling a bit to read from the book and sign copies, so perhaps I'll see you in Seattle, Bellingham or other cities around the Pacific Northwest or points east. My appearances schedule is on my web site. I hope to see old friends and new!
If a plot issue has you really stuck, the tendency is to rush to a resolution that isn't original enough. Remember that all authors hate to plot. It's not just you! What to do? Here are stage one and stage two strategies, depending on how thorny the issue is:
#1. Leave the computer. Sitting in a chair with your notebook, list possible solutions in quick one-line summaries, no matter how silly. Do this without evaluating, and as quickly as you can. I've used this simple technique for years, and I don't know why it works. One or more of your trial solutions may lead you down a path you least expected.
You're still stuck? OK, time for #2: Take a walk, let yourself consider the issue, but also let yourself be distracted by the street, by the outdoors. Occasionally gently bring your thoughts back to your issue. Voila! On the last block you'll be rushing back to the computer to get it all down. Scientists know this phenomenon, of ideas coming to you when you stop chasing them. They call this the "three Bs:" bath, bus, bed. You're taking a bath or riding the bus, and your subconscious hands you the answer that eluded you. (Or you "sleep on it.")
That's it for fiction and the writing life this month. If you have topics you'd like me to cover, or if you would like more detail on the issues I'm raising, just drop me an email. I'd like to hear from you. Meanwhile, I'm busy with the launch of my new book and current writing projects. Amid all the bookstores, conventions, blogging and promotion, I try to remember that although writers may promote, study and teach, the main thing is, they write. Guess I'd better get to it!